The recent election brought good news to school districts across the state, and Visalia Unified was no exception. Among the many propositions that voters considered in November were two measures that were particularly important for stability and growth for schools. Both Proposition 51 and Proposition 55 were approved, and I want to take a few moments to describe how these will impact Visalia Unified.

Proposition 51 helps us meet our commitment of providing safe and modern schools for kids. You will recall that Visalia voters approved Measure E in 2012. That measure provided us the ability to sell $60.1 million in bonds, which we increased to $60.6 million through favorable rates. These funds were used to modernize, improve, and make our school facilities safer. Projects were undertaken with Measure E funds across Visalia, including the new two-story academic building at Redwood High School, the construction of Ridgeview Middle School, numerous playground improvements, and single-point of entry renovations for security at many schools.

When Measure E was passed, our plan was to apply for reimbursement from the state for a significant proportion of the funds raised through bonds so that the total amount available for all projects would increase to nearly $130 million. The suspension of the reimbursement program at the state, however, placed this approach in jeopardy. Fortunately, the approval of Proposition 51 allows the state to issue up to $9 billion in bonds to fund improvements and new construction of schools. Those state bonds will allow us to receive the $47 million reimbursement from the state for projects already completed and to finish the remaining projects originally envisioned under Measure E. This is a great outcome for our community and our schools.

The second measure, Proposition 55, offers us stability of school funding for the near future. Proposition 55 is an extension of current funding established by Proposition 30 in 2012 and does not represent new funding. It is a one to three percent increase from the current level, depending on income, on taxes paid by the approximately 1.5 percent of single Californians earning more than $250,000 per year or $500,000 for those filing jointly. What that means for Visalia Unified specifically is the prevention of the loss of $15 million to VUSD’s general fund. Such a decrease would mean significant cuts to programs at all levels and all schools, and would have great negative impact on our ability to provide opportunities for kids.

I know that support for both of these ballot measures was not universal in our community. Even so, on behalf of the VUSD Board of Trustees, staff, and students, I thank the community for its support of our schools. VUSD is proud of its contribution to our community and our culture. The condition of our campuses contributes to this overarching success and sense of pride. Together, we can accomplish much. These investments in education send a strong message that Visalians value education.